The Widow, STV

How’s this for a pitch? A grieving spouse makes a shocking discovery about their loved one, returns to the distant land where the deceased spent an important part of their life, turns up more shocking discoveries, is dogmatic and obsessive in the face of threats and danger, and falls in with a local who has a connection to the mystery but who then bites the bullet in tragic circumstances.

If that sounds awfully like 2018 drama Strangers, which threw grieving John Simm into a Hong Kong-based puzzler – one of his big discoveries was that his dead wife had a Chinese husband on the island and a daughter by him – then you won’t be surprised to learn that both it and The Widow are from sibling writing team Harry and Jack Williams. And if you watched last week’s opening two episodes and wondered why the platitudes put into the mouth of French actor Jacky Ido sounded so Julien Baptiste-like, well that might be because the brothers Williams are also responsible for Baptiste and the show it was spun off from, The Missing.

Ido played Emmanuel Kazadi, a journalist in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) whose wife had died in the same plane crash that killed aid worker Will Mason (Matthew Le Nevez). After the tragedy Mason’s widow, Georgia Wells (Kate Beckinsale), took herself off to a Welsh mountain top for three years to grieve, which is where she was when episode one opened. But out walking on scree one day she fell, injured her leg and had to head into town for stitches. And it was in the hospital while watching news footage of unrest in Kinshasa that she made her shocking discovery: there, in the background of the shot, was her husband. Very much alive it seemed.

Beckinsale, in her first British TV role for decades, has a whiff of Lara Croft about her, a slightly unreal quality at odds with what’s shaping up to be a gritty drama tackling real-world issues. We’ve already been introduced to 12-year-old child soldier Adidja (Shalom Nyandiko) and unscrupulous South African mercenary Pieter Bello (Bart Fouche), and the revelation that it was a bomb which downed Will’s plane added to the political intrigue.

But if the jury’s out on Beckinsale and poised to deliver a damning verdict on the script and the dialogue, there’s a resounding Not Guilty for the decent supporting cast (among them Alex Kingston and Charles Dance) and for the clever plotting, which sees the action flit from Wales to Kinshasa to Rotterdam, where blind Icelander Ariel Helgason (Trapped’s Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) is awaiting a sight-saving operation that might prove key to unlocking the whole mystery. If you can suspend disbelief – and a few of your critical faculties besides – The Widow is a gripping enough watch.